"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban


"Enter here to be and find a friend."
--Motto on the entrance of the Irving School

Tim and Duncan are connected in more than one way. First they both resided in the same room as seniors at the prestigious Irving school, just one year apart. Secondly, they both were involved in a horrific accident that involved the beautiful and popular Vanessa. An accident that affected both of them deeply; an accident full of the type of material that could be used in the Tragedy Paper, a major assignment for all seniors at the school.

Duncan arrives at the Irving School his senior year anxious to learn which room he will get and what "treasure" the previous student left him. When he discovers that Tim was the previous owner of his room, he is disappointed. And to make matters worse all Tim left him as a gift was a pile of CDs. But as it turns out the CDs tell the story of the events that led up to the accident last school year.  Tim, an albino, entered the Irving School in January of his senior year having met Vanessa, the school's "it-girl", enroute. He has a crush on her and she seems to like him but there is one problem...she has a boyfriend. In the CDs Tim narrates the story of the last year and explains how Duncan came unwittingly into the it.

I listened to the audiobook of The Tragedy Paper. On the last disc Elizabeth LaBan, the author, was asked why she made Tim an albino. She said that she wanted the protagonist to have a disability but not one that made him sick. She attended a private boarding school her senior year and it was a unique but wonderful experience. She, too, had to write a tragedy paper, an assignment that she and her classmates dreaded.

It is very odd that in one summer I would read two books in which the main character is an albino. The Tragedy Paper is a very different story than The Golden Boy, which is set in Africa. But in both books readers do learn a bit about the limitations and troubles albinoes experience because of the lack of any pigment in their skin and eyes. I appreciated learning new information.

The Tragedy Paper has a lot going for it.  It is a story told in two voices, Tim's and Duncan's. There is a love triangle, so common in YA lit today. There is a bit of a mystery with some tense
scenes. I liked it and hope to find teen readers for it at my school.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


34 / 30 books. 113% done!


Review: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina


A Latina girl, Piddy Sanchez, is targeted by a bully at her new school. She tries to handle things on her own but as the bullying escalates Piddy doesn't know where to turn for help. She has to learn to trust and to reach inside herself to find a strong girl within.

Bullying is a big problem in high schools today. Two years ago we had a young man at my school who committed suicide. The day after his death dozens of kids were racked with guilt. You see, the boy was a victim of bullying and the students who participated in it finally had a mirror held up to see what it looks like when bullying goes to far. The end result was the leadership of the student council and several teachers put together a program that seems to have a positive result on the problem. But we have to stay ever vigilant.

In Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina we meet Piddy, a Latina girl who has to change schools.  Prior to getting to the new school she likes science and enjoys her friendships with other teens and relationships with adults at the beauty salon where she works on Saturdays. She is a happy girl. All this changes once Yaqui Delgado starts bullying her. Piddy doesn't know how to respond. She tries to avoid Yaqui. She skips classes and school. She hides. Nothing helps. She shuts down. She isolates herself from friends and adults who would actually help if given a chance. Finally, finally school officials get involved and a solution is found that works for everyone.

As an adult reading this book I finally saw the problem with a lot of our school policies concerning bullying. If a student goes to a school official for help, the bullying will likely increase. I am not sure how popular this book will be with students but I hope that other teachers read it to gain an understanding of the reality of the serious issue. I have never read a book which gives me such insights into the seriousness of bullying. I highly recommend it.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


33 / 30 books. 110% done!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Book beginnings and Friday 56

Happy Friday everybody!


Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the one you are currently reading.


Book: Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Book Beginnings:
I was alone backstage.
Friday 56:
"Amazing. And which of Shakespeare's ladies is your mother most like?"
"Lady Macbeth," I blurt.
Steven laughed. "You mean she would dash your brains out to further her career?"
I only started the book last night but already the main character has been transported back in time to try to save Shakespeare from doing something rash and becoming a priest. Cute premise.

Review: Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers

"Students have told me that if not for Myers's book, they would not read."
-Jessica Fenster-Sparber, Library Coordinator, Passages Academy (from book cover)

I have read several of Walter Dean Myers books and I am always impressed by his ability to write about situations and settings so different than where I live. He definitely understands students living in poverty and in dangerous situations. As a black man he speaks boldly and confidently to his readers about racial situations, not mincing or sugar-coating his words.

In Darius and Twig Walter Dean Myers introduces us to two friends. Both boys have dreams and goals which will allow them to move out of their community, a place that seems to want to hold them back with all the gangs, drugs, and bullies.

Darius has dreams of being a writer and he seems to be talented. But can he bring himself to revise his draft in enough time to be eligible for a scholarship?

Twig is a runner and hopes that his legs will be his ticket out. But his family thinks he should give up running and go into the family business. His culture honors family connections. Can he disappoint them to go for his goals?

Each boy has a dream but the fulfillment of that dream will move them apart from each other as well. Myers says that the book, "Darius and Twig is about needing to live your own dream."

Here is a favorite line from the book where Twig gives Darius feedback on the revisions on his essay:
"But the story is clearer because the kid is looking for something inside of himself, and that's what it's all about. And you know what else I like about the story? I like the fact that at the end, he still has a bad leg and stuff isn't just wonderful. He's still got all the problems in his life and he's still got to deal with them. Shit doesn't go away easy."
That is for sure--shit doesn't go away easy for these boys.  It doesn't go away easy for many of us.

I think that there is an audience at my school who will appreciate this short gem of a story.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


32 / 30 books. 106% done!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resistance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

In this day and age of "heroes" who end up being anything but a hero--such as sports stars who use steroids to get ahead--it is very refreshing to have a story of a true American hero. In Unbroken: The World War II Story of Survival, Resistance, and Redemption the author Laura Hillenbrand introduces us to Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympic runner, and his harrowing WWII story.
Zamperini ran track at USC before his experiences in World War II. Photo Courtesy of Louis Zamperini.

Zamperini was a son of Italian immigrants. He grew up Torrance, California during the Depression. He was always getting himself in trouble or running away (literally) to avoid trouble. His brother suggested that he would get in less trouble at school if he had a positive outlet for his energy so he was allowed to join the track team where he instantly became a sensation, setting all kinds of high school running records. In 1936, at the age of 19, he earned a spot on the US Olympic team in the 5000 meter race, having only competed at that distance four times before. He did so well during the race that even Hitler remarked about it. He hoped to run the 1500 m. race in the 1940 Olympics but that was not to be. Instead the world went to war and the Olympics were cancelled. Louis enlisted in the Army Air Corp, becoming an officer, and was assigned to duty in the Pacific as a bombardier on a B-24.

A year later he and the crew of the B-24 were searching the Pacific for a missing plane when their plane went down. Only three of the eleven men on board survived the crash. Zamperini and one of those men survived for 47 days adrift in the South Pacific,the other man died on day 33 in the raft, before being captured by the Japanese military. He then was taken to a series of POW camps, two on islands and eventually on Japan, where Zamperini was tortured and nearly starved to death. At the end of the war he and the other prisoners were rescued and returned home after several months in Army hospitals. Many of the men had lost half their body weight in the camps.

Hillenbrand could have ended the story here with Zamperini's happy return home after years of war and tortuous living arrangements in the POW camps, but she doesn't. She continues his story. Like many returning soldiers, Zamperini had a hard time with his re-entry. He became an alcoholic, trying to drink away his nightmares and flashbacks of the war. Not until 1949 did the war end for him. It was after he had a conversion experience at a Billy Graham crusade that his war finally ended.

Zamperini, who is still alive today at age 96, spent the rest of his life telling his story and working with troubled teens. He has truly lived the life of a hero, one whose story is not only compelling but worth reading about.

I listened to the audiobook of Unbroken: a WWII Story of Survival, Resistance, and Redemption. Typically it takes me at least two weeks to finish an audiobook because I limit my listening to time spent in the car.  But with Unbroken I was too enraptured in the story to leave it alone and would drag the CDs into the house after I returned home each afternoon and would sit for great lengths of time in front of my computer listening to Edward Hermann read Unbroken with his near-perfect voice. Loved it! Now my husband is listening to it as he commutes to work. Each evening he returns home to review with me the current action in the book.

Laura Hillenbrand is a fabulous writer. Jane Ciabattari, a book reviewer for the LA times says that Hillenbrand tells Zamperini's story in "a nearly continuous flow of suspense." She compares this book to Hillenbrand's first book, Seabiscuit, and describes the prose as galloping along at full speed throughout the story. She gives an example about what she means and about Hillenbrand's writing style:
She opens with a gripping two-page glimpse of Army Air Forces bombardier Zamperini in mortal danger, lying on a raft in the Pacific on June 23, 1943. He and three other survivors of a plane crash are gaunt after 27 days at sea: "Sharks glided in lazy loops around them, dragging their backs along the rafts, waiting." Spotting a plane, Zamperini fires off two flares only to discover that it is a Japanese bomber. Strafing begins.--LA Times writer, Jane Ciabattari
Take a look at the book trailer. It shows Louis then and now:

Several of my librarian-blogging friends recommended that I listen to Unbroken in the audio format and now I am going to make the same recommendation for you. It's the best!

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


31 / 30 books. 103% done!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Memorable Secondary Characters

Memorable Secondary Characters:

1. Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom...Harry Potter series. Both of these characters are favorites because they stay true to themselves and loyal to their friends throughout the series.

2. Myrna Minkoff...A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Ignatius J. Riley's x-girlfriend who writes him scathing letters encouraging him to have sex so that he will lighten-up. She finally enters a scene right at the end of the book.

3. Isaac...A Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Isaac is in the Cancer Support group. He introduces Gus to Hazel Grace. Even though he goes blind he provides the comic relief for the story.

4. Mr. Collins...Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Just because he is memorable doesn't mean that I necessarily like him. Mr. Collins is an duffus but involved in some memorable scenes in the book.

5. Orma...Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Orma is Seraphina's tutor. He is a dragon so he can't feel love, or can he.  He is like Mr. Spock.

6. Mogget...Sabriel and other books in the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. The ancient free- magic being that appears in the form of a while cat. Also: The Disreputable Dog from the same series. He is also a magical being but takes on the form of a dog and guide.

7. Rue...Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The small tribute from District 11 in the Hunger Games. She and Katniss joined forces. I cried when she died.

8. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. These talking beasts help save the children when the White Witch is hunting them. Also Puddleglum from The Silver Chair in the same series by Lewis. He's such an Eeyore type of character.

9. Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A non-talking but very present character in this classic novel. He saves Scout's life.

10. Balder in Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Balder is a garden gnome who is actually a Norse god. He is a companion to Cameron and Gomez as they go on their quest to save the world.

Review: The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackell


Looking for a good murder mystery? One where nearly every character in the book is a potential suspect? One where the main suspect is a purposeful mute and hasn't spoken a word out loud for nine years? One where the sister is the only person determined to clear her brother's name and in the process shed light on all the other suspects, including her friends?

Well, if that sound like the kind of book you are looking for let me recommend The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackell.  It was an Edgar Award winner in 2012. The Edgars are given to the best mysteries in a variety of categories.  The Silence of Murder won for the best YA mystery of the year.

In my perpetual search to find books for a variety of readers I determined that I need to read more mysteries.  When I stumbled upon the Edgar Award database which allows me to search by category, or author, etc. I knew I had found a treasure trove of information on good mysteries. I found this book and many others that I hope to read soon. I happily have a new book to recommend to my mystery readers and new source of information to find more.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


30 / 30 books. 100% done!

Yippee! I've completed my 30-book reading challenge and summer isn't quite over. How many more can I read by summers end? I think I'll keep going.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My response to a blogger's question

I few weeks ago I read a blog post by Lisa Parkin titled: Why We'd Be Screwed if Young Adults Books Were Real. In the post Ms. Parkin identified four reasons we'd be screwed if YA lit were real and then gave examples of books that fit her rationale. She ended the piece with this question:

If YA fantasy were real, what would you be worried about?

I decided to answer her question here but will amend the question to address YA Lit in general, not just fantasy lit.

1. Where are the adults, especially the parents, that should be looking out for their teens and children? This has long been a gripe of mine about YA lit...absent or MIA parents. Kids would have to run the world if there were no adults but there are adults in the real world, so why act like they don't exist? This really worries me that kids think they have to solve all their own problems.

Books that have good parent/adult role models:
--The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
--Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
--Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Park's parents, not Eleanor's)

2. Why are there so many alcoholic or drug addicted parents? Along the line of my first worry, if there are parents in the books these parents are really messed up, forcing the kids to behave like almost super humans to survive. Kids need to know that there is another side to life where adults behave like adults and are willing to provide a stable environment to grow up in.

Books I like even though the parent is alcoholic/drug addicted/abusive:
--Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
--Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
--Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

3. The end of the world is near. Ever notice how many YA novels feature teens struggling to survive post-apocalypse. Are they trying to tell us something? The end is near? This does worry me a bit.

Good post-apocalypse YA novels:
--House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
--Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
--Maze Runner by James Dashner

4. Teens only form loving relationships in triangles. I worry that all teens think that they aren't capable of making decisions about loving, stable relationships. In fact, there are so many love triangles in YA lit it is shocking if there isn't one.

YA romance stories that include a triangle (but I liked them anyway)
--The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
--The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LeBan
--Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

5. Paranormal creatures really exist.  This REALLY worries me because I get creeped out very easily and don't need to know that vampires, zombies, werewolves actually exist, although I do like the idea of fairies.

Paranormal books that passed muster:
--Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
--Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
--Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

If YA literature were real, what would you be worried about?

Bout of Books Readathon wrap-up

Bout of Books

Wrap-up:

  • My goal was to read three hours per day of the readathon, for a total of 21 hours for the week. Some days I didn't even manage three hours but my daily average was 3.5 hours for a total of 25 reading hours. 
  • I completed three books: The Silence of Murder by Mackell, Unbroken by Hillenbrand, and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Medina. 
  • In addition, I started two other books. I am 3/4 of the way through The Tragedy Paper by LeBan, an audiobook. I am 1/3rd through Darius and Twig by Myers even though I just started it last night.
  • Did I do anything differently this past week than my usual week of reading? Yes and No. Typically I can finish three books in one week, especially if I am not working and have time to sit and read for long periods of time. So the number of books I completed is not unusual. However, I did complete one whole audiobook and 3/4 of another one.  That is unusual.  On the back of the audiobook case it usually says how long it takes to listen to the book. If you compared reading time to listening time, it takes much longer to listen to a book. By listening to these two books rather than reading them I didn't have as much time to read something else which decrease my book number count.
  • What I enjoyed about the Bout of Books Readathon was the daily accounting of my reading. This accountability piece kept me going because I knew I would have to report what I read publicly and vanity kept me from being too big of a slacker.


Progress: 
August 19- Read The Silence of Murder for a total of 1 1/2 hours. Downloaded the audiobook the Tragedy Paper from the public library but did not start listening.  Reading total: 1 1/2 hours. Daily goal not met.

August 20-Read The Silence of Murder for 15 minutes. Listened to approximately 2 hours of Unbroken. Had a day-long class and book club in the evening. We discussed Half-Broke Horses. Reading total: 2 1/4 hours. Daily goal not met.

August 21- Finished The Silence of Murder in one hour. Listened to 5 1/2 hours of Unbroken (2 1/2 hrs. while I worked at school getting library ready to open, 1 hr. while I drove to and fro, 2 hrs. sitting on the couch listening.) I'm on disc 7 of 11. This is the BEST audiobook I've listened to in ages. Started Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for 15 minutes. Reading total: 6 3/4 hours. Daily goal exceeded.

August 22- Finished Unbroken after approximately six hours of listening. Look for my review later this week.  This book is amazing. Downloaded The Tragedy Paper onto my iPod. Reading total: 6 hours. Daily goal exceeded.

August 23- Started The Tragedy Paper audiobook. Listened to approximately 2 hours. Read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass while at the beauty salon for approximately 1 hour. Went to the public library and selected two more audiobooks for future listening. Reading total: 3 hours. Daily goal met.

August 24- Listened to another two hours of The Tragedy Paper. I'm currently a little over halfway through the book. Read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for at least 1 1/4 hours. I wanted to finish it but bed was calling my name. Reading total: 3 1/4 hours. Daily goal met.

August 25- Finished Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass before I got out of bed (1/2 hour). Listened to an hour of The Tragedy Paper. Started Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers. Read for about 45 minutes. Reading total: 2 1/4 hours. Daily goal not met.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Salon...last Sunday in August

Wildflowers on Mt. Rainier
Weather: gorgeous, sunny with a light breeze.

Yesterday: Our church had a huge work party to essentially muck it out. There were people everywhere cleaning out closets and drawers, sending items off to the clothing bank, the recyclers, and dump. I came home sore but glad to be a part of it.

Yesterday evening: Don and I attended a potluck/party in the evening for JAG officers. The conversation and company were good. Thanks Matt and Eileen for opening your home for us!

Today: I hope to get outside and do some serious pruning on the summer baskets in hopes that they will revive enough for a few more weeks of color. This happens to me every summer.  I plants lots of pots with beautiful annuals in late Spring which I tend lovingly until around the end of August when, for some dumb reason or another, I start to neglect them causing the plants to all look sad and tired....You didn't miss me, but I just got up and went outside to tend to the plants. Now I'm back! It also seems like a good day to wash the dog.

Applesauce: my daughter, who is working at a warehouse this summer, likes to take apples in her lunch every day so we just dropped by the big warehouse store and bought a huge container of Golden Ginger apples.  We had sampled them at the farmer's market last week-end and liked them. Well, we got home and discovered that the apples were mushy. Ugh. We like our apples crisp. Being from Washington State we are pretty picky about our apples.  Anyway, now she and I are busy cutting up apples for applesauce. My husband just announced, "That's what one should do with mushy apples" as he tucked into a bowl of warm applesauce.

Book read this week:
  • Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resistance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, audiobook read by Edward Hermann. Wow. Wow. Wow.
  • The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackell. A YA mystery that won the Edgar Award.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. You have got to read this book sometime in your life. Read my review here.
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. Another YA novel about the effects of bullying.
Currently reading:
  • The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, an audiobook...an albino boy experiences love and bullying at a private school. 
In church today: I learned about a concept I had never thought about before. After reading Acts 1:1-11 our pastor talked about the fact that Jesus had to leave in order for his disciples to understand the kingdom of heaven.  He had been with them for 40 days after his resurrection explaining the concept of the kingdom of heaven and they still didn't get it.  Forty years wouldn't have been enough time.  Not until he left us with his holy spirit were we able to comprehend what he meant. 

This coming week: I will be back at school almost full time. Ah, the end of summer....Sigh.

We are off to wash the dog at one of those self-serve places. Please drop me a note and let me know how you will be spending your last few days of summer.


Bout of Books...End of Summer Readathon

Bout of Books

Call me crazy.  Like I don't have enough to do to get ready for the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, but today I joined up for a week-long readathon called Bout of Books.  My goal is to read and/or listen to audiobooks for a total of 3 hours every day.  Guess I'd better get off the blog and get reading!

Progress: 
August 19- Read The Silence of Murder for a total of 1 1/2 hours. Downloaded the audiobook the Tragedy Paper from the public library but did not start listening.  Reading total: 1 1/2 hours. Daily goal not met.

August 20-Read The Silence of Murder for 15 minutes. Listened to approximately 2 hours of Unbroken. Had a day-long class and book club in the evening. We discussed Half-Broke Horses. Reading total: 2 1/4 hours. Daily goal not met.

August 21- Finished The Silence of Murder in one hour. Listened to 5 1/2 hours of Unbroken (2 1/2 hrs. while I worked at school getting library ready to open, 1 hr. while I drove to and fro, 2 hrs. sitting on the couch listening.) I'm on disc 7 of 11. This is the BEST audiobook I've listened to in ages. Started Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for 15 minutes. Reading total: 6 3/4 hours. Daily goal exceeded.

August 22- Finished Unbroken after approximately six hours of listening. Look for my review later this week.  This book is amazing. Downloaded The Tragedy Paper onto my iPod. Reading total: 6 hours. Daily goal exceeded.

August 23- Started The Tragedy Paper audiobook. Listened to approximately 2 hours. Read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass while at the beauty salon for approximately 1 hour. Went to the public library and selected two more audiobooks for future listening. Reading total: 3 hours. Daily goal met.

August 24- Listened to another two hours of The Tragedy Paper. I'm currently a little over halfway through the book. Read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass for at least 1 1/4 hours. I wanted to finish it but bed was calling my name. Reading total: 3 1/4 hours. Daily goal met.

August 25- Finished Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass before I got out of bed (1/2 hour). Listened to an hour of The Tragedy Paper. Started Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers. Read for about 45 minutes. Reading total: 2 1/4 hours. Daily goal not met.

See my wrap-up here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

In 2006 the New York Times Book Review editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out requests to hundreds of writers, editors, and literary know-it-alls asking them to identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." (NYT) As most people predicted Beloved by Toni Morrison won, but down the list a little ways was A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, along with novels by Philip Roth, John Updike, Don DeLillo and many other literary bigwigs. Not bad for a book rejected by many publishers before finally being published posthumously in 1980, probably due largely to the doggedness of Thelma Toole, the author's mother. Of course, a little kerfuffle arose about whether Dunces even should be allowed on the list since it was written by Toole in the 1960s outside the 25 year range. Nonetheless, it made the list and deserves to be on it!

Several years ago a 12th-grade boy approached me in the library asking if I would consider purchasing a book called A Confederacy of Dunces. He had heard some good things about it and wanted to check it out. I did a little research and decided to get the book. I don't remember if the boy ever came back and told me what he thought of it. I wish I could go back in time and ask him, now that I've experienced the book myself.

I used the word "experienced" rather than "read" A Confederacy of Dunces on purpose.  My husband and I listened to the audiobook which was read by Barrett Whitener. What a fun experience! Whitener did an excellent job with the varied and unique New Orleans dialects and accents. The two characters that I thought he did especially well were Ignatius J. Riley and and Burma Jones (more on them later.) The dialogue in this comedic farce is often funny, but when it is spoken aloud it becomes hilarious. Don and I would laugh out loud as we listened and then would repeat funny lines to each other later. My husband became very adept at making announcements as if he were Ignatius J. Riley. All of them started with "Oh my gawd..."

After nobody loved this book, everybody loved it. In 1981 it won the Pulitzer prize for literature. It has sold over 1.5 million copies and been translated into 18 languages.  I wonder if the translations catch the nuances of the humor? At any rate it is a very funny and quirky book.

Ignatius J. Riley is about the most disgusting character imaginable. He is a fat, lazy, demanding, thoughtless slob who wants to spend his time, in his own words "writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip." His pyloric valve occasionally closes up because of a lack of  "proper geometry and theology." He is mean to his mother, Irene Riley, and can't seem to even hold down the easiest of all jobs -- filing clerk and hot dog vendor -- even though he has eight years of college under his belt. His once-girlfriend, Myrna Minkoff of New York, thinks Ignatius needs sex and that will cure all his problems. At some point, an empathetic reader may stop viewing Ignatius as simply a pig-headed oaf and begin to understand that his character is defined by unacknowledged mental illness, which adds an element of sadness to the accounts of his interactions but does not diminish the humor. Ignatius is by definition the hero as the principal male character in the story, but he is far from a man of distinguished courage or ability. Everything in the story centers around Ignatius and in the end things turn out amazingly well, thanks to him.

There are so many funny lines in the book it is hard to pick one to give you an idea of the flavor of it, but here is one that I think is especially good:
Between notes, he had contemplated means of destroying Myrna Minkoff but had reached no satisfactory conclusion. His most promising scheme had involved getting a book on munitions from the library, constructing a bomb, and mailing it in plain paper to Myrna. Then he remembered that his library card had been revoked.
Burma Jones is an underpaid janitor at a sleazy nightclub who is attempting to steer clear of being arrested for vagrancy. In the book's forward, Walker Percy says this about Jones: "---and one black in whom Toole has achieved the near-impossible, a superb comic character of immense wit and resourcefulness without the least trace of Rastus minstrelsy."

Nearly every other character -- and there are lots of characters in this book -- make small entrances and exits before circling back to enter the story again and again. Toole did a brilliant job weaving all the characters and the storylines together. In fact, Toole did a brilliant job with Dunces. Period. Everything about it is funny and poignant at the same time. Walker Percy describes the book as more than a comedy, because a comedy "implies simply a funny book, and this novel is a great deal more than that. A great rumbling farce of Falstaffian dimensions would better describe it." But he goes on to say that there is a sadness to the book, too.  Whether it is a sadness about Ignatius' rantings and ravings or about the fact that Toole committed suicide ten years before the book was even published. I'd say both.
It is a great tragedy that John Kennedy Toole is not alive and well and writing. But he is not, and there is nothing we can do about it but make sure that this gargantuan tumultuous human tragicomedy is a least made available to a world of readers. ---Walker Percy, in the Forward
Since finishing A Confederacy of Dunces my husband and I have continued to circle back and discuss/laugh about the book together. Now that we have read it we feel as though we have been inducted into an elite club, the Confederacy of Dunces club. From here on out we will always have a little Ignatius J. Riley running around in our heads exclaiming, when things are a little off-kilter with geometry and theology, "oh my gawd..."

Join the club. Read this amazing book or, better yet, listen to the audiobook version of it. We're glad we experienced it this way.
30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


29 / 30 books. 96% done!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review:Imprisoned:The Betrayal of the Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin Sandler

The Betrayal of the Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin Sandler is a recently published nonfiction book for young adults. Over the years a lot has been published about the deplorable actions of the government and people of the United States in their treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. This book does an excellent job of bring together all the pieces in a very readable and accessible book that would appeal to readers grades 5-10. There are many, many primary documents, something that all librarians like to see in books that are useful for student research projects. In addition, there are many first hand accounts of the treatment of these American families at the hand of their government and their neighbors.

I have read a fair number of books and stories about Japanese Internment so I was leary that I would learn anything new. But I did. The first hand accounts really opened up the topic for me and made it even more real and sad. Thankfully the book doesn't end in 1945 when the internment ended but it talks about what has happened since that time towards making reparations for these families who lost everything.

I recommend that all libraries, especially school libraries, purchase a copy of this book. in addition let the teachers know about the book so that they can read it and figure out ways to bring the information to their students. I was given an advanced readers copy by the publisher, Walker Books for Young Readers. Though this ARC is incomplete, with placeholders for some of the photographs and charts, I plan on giving it to one of our US history teachers as soon as I get back to school.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


28 / 30 books. 93% done!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test. ---Goodreads
It is surprising how often it happens. I start two books at approximately the same time, not knowing much about either, and discover that the books have a lot in common.  Sometimes even too much in common so that I spend a bit of time comparing them as I read along. Sometimes I even get the two plots twisted up together.  That is what happened this month with Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. I started reading it just days after I started listening to A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.  Both books are set in New Orleans. Both are set in earlier decades, Out of the Easy in the early 1950s, Dunces in the late 1960s. A large portion of each book is set in the French Quarter with multiple references to prominent street names, etc. I couldn't help myself from the comparing the two novels and unfortunately for Out of the Easy I found it wanting.

Let me tell you first what I liked about Out of the Easy. Josie, is a very independent daughter of a local prostitute, stands up for herself and has a plan for the future that doesn't involve the lifestyle her mother is involved in. She wants to go to college and she wants out of New Orleans. She has wonderful friends who look after her and help her out as she attempts to make these dreams come true.  Then there is a murder and Josie gets involved because she is one of the last people to talk to the man before his death, and her mother seems to be involved somehow. Will Josie be trapped by circumstances beyond her own making? The storyline and the characters are interesting and they kept me, the reader, moving along in the book. I liked the story and won't have any trouble recommending this book to my students to read.

In comparison to Dunces, however, I started taking issue with some aspects of Out of the Easy. For one thing Dunces does a brilliant job with the very unique New Orleans accent. It is a very colorful accent flavored with Creole, French, and Caribbean influences. Sepetys may have thrown in a few French words but not enough for the reader to experience the uniqueness of the language of New Orleans.  To be fair, Dunces did win a Pulitzer prize in large part because Toole nailed the dialect so well.

Out of the Easy took place in 1950 yet it could easily have been set in the 1960s, 1970s, or even 1980s for how few references it made to that decade. One song was mentioned that was popular in that day, the author Truman Capote was referenced, and a few mentions were made to the impending Korean conflict letting the reader know the time frame of the book, but that was about it.  It was pretty disappointing. In my opinion when an author sets a book in an earlier decade he/she has the responsibility to take the reader to that time and place with plenty of pop-culture references to that time period. Dunces wasn't written as a period piece.  Toole wrote it in the 1960s as a modern day piece.

In other aspects, the two books have few similarities. Out of the Easy is a murder mystery with serious characters and scenes. Dunces has a farcical plot with zany characters that all get tangled up together in unusual and hilarious ways. I'll be writing my review for A Confederacy of Dunces later this week so come back to this blog soon.

Though I take issue with these two aspects of Out of the Easy, I honestly liked the book and hope that you will want to read it. I sincerely think if I hadn't read the two books at the same time that I would have liked Out of the Easy more than I did. I know that it isn't fair and makes me seem like a biased person but I suspect that all of us are influenced by our juxtapositions to other things more than we are willing to admit.  Hey, my best advice---read them both, just not at the same time!

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


27 / 30 books. 90% done!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Salon...August 18

A peaceful summer hike
Weather: There are moments when I can tell that Fall is on its way. The nights are getting colder and twilight is shorter. Yesterday started cloudy and overcast, but ended sunny.  We'll see about today.

Today: We are driving to Portland for an impromptu family reunion for my dad's side of the family. The last time our family gathered was for my aunt's funeral. This time we are gathering because my cousin is seriously ill, on hospice care. We are gathering to say goodbye. It makes me sad to say it.

This past week: I actually attended a very good teacher in-service. The presenter was Dylan Wiliam (spelling correct.) He really put the current research together with teaching techniques that work.  If you ever have a chance to go to one of his conferences,  do it!

This next week: I'm slowly heading back to work, a few hours at a time.  Friday I put in 3 1/2 hours, Monday will probably be the same.  Everyone asks me why I do it when I don't "have" to. To which I reply, but I do have to or the library won't be ready for opening day. Our first day of school is September 4th.

Lists: All those doctor/hair/dental/glass repair appointments I've been putting off all summer.

Books finished this week:
  • Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan...an albino boy in Tanzania must run and hide or be captured and killed.  Very well done. Read my review here.
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys...set in New Orleans in the 1950s.
  • Imprisoned by Martin Sandler...Japanese internment. I learned a lot.
Currently working on:
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole...a poignant farce. Very funny and very odd characters. An audiobook selection. We hope to finish this up on our trip to Portland today.
  • The Silence of Murder by Dandy Daley Mackall...an Edgar award winner (mystery)
Checked out from the public library and hoping to start soon:
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (audiobook)
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
30 book reading challenge update: I've complete 28 books toward by 30 book reading goal for the summer. Looks like I will make it. Yippee!

Church: This will be the fourth or fifth week in a row that we are missing church. I suspect we will have to reintroduce ourselves next week when we return.  Ha!

The yard/garden: the sweet peas bloomed, got powdering mildew, and look disgusting.  Sigh.  I think we will get three or four big tomatoes from our one bush before summer's end. The wildflowers my daughter planted for the bees won't make it, I'm afraid.  They are up but I doubt they will bloom. Asters and chrysanthemums are getting ready to bloom. Our vine maple is starting to turn red.  Fall is just around the corner. 

Comments: I'm starting to get discouraged by how few comments I receive on my blog.  If you are a visitor, won't you please leave me a short comment to let me know what you think?  Thanks.




Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Golden Boy is a debut novel set in modern day Tanzania by Tara Sullivan, a fellow high school teacher.  Here is the summary:
Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different— light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him...when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt albinos in Mwanza because albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To keep his life, Habo must run, not knowing if he can ever stop. -Summary from Tara Sullivan's Web Page
Habo is short for Dhahabo, which means golden in Kiswahili, the language of Tanzania. No one in Habo's village has ever seen an albino before and consider him very unlucky. I have to tell you right off, this book really got to me.  It made me so angry and the tension was so palpable that I had to shut the book to make myself stop reading in order to calm myself down. The only other time I remember being so affected by a book was when I read The Poisonwood Bible, interestingly it is also set in Africa. Why was I so angry? Although this book is a work of fiction, the situations portrayed in it are true. According to the information provided at the back of the book, this issue in Tanzania around hunting albinos is actually going on now and is a relatively new problem. Under the Same Sun, a nonprofit organization working to rescue people from albinism attacks, reported in June 2012 that 71 people with albinism have been murdered in Tanzania and another 28 escaped but with severe mutilations. How and why do such weird beliefs spring up? It is frightening and disgusting. Like I said, it really got to me.

At any rate, Golden Boy has just catapulted itself onto my list of top YA books of the year. The topic, living in Africa with albinism, is certainly a unique one. Yes, it is a story about prejudice and the effects of poor education, but it is also a story of acceptance and of bravery. Habo becomes a complete person by the story's end, not just a "zeruzeru" (nothing) as he is called by others his whole life. His growth is applaudable. Sullivan also proves that she is an author to be reckoned with by using wonderful prose as she describes the Tanzanian settings and the inner turmoil of our young protagonist. Here she describes a day in the life with one brief sentence: "...the day drags its dusty body across us, crushing me with the weight of a hundred tiny tasks." I know that feeling. don't you?

One additional aspect of Golden Boy that I really liked made it apparent that Sullivan had done her homework. She not only describes that landscape of Tanzania with picturesque language, she sprinkles Kiswahili words throughout. To aid the reader she provides a short dictionary of words and phrases at the back of the book. I consulted it often. The use of Kiswahili words lends the book an air of authenticity not often found in books whose settings are different from our own.

I think that this cover art is spectacular and perfect for the story so it is noteworthy. The young man is barely in focus, as if he barely exists, just as Habo barely exists at the beginning of the story. Here's a shout out to the artist, Jesse Joshua Watson, and the cover designer, Ryan Thomann.

I highly recommend this book. Asante (thank you) to the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, for providing me the ARC from which I wrote this review.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


26 / 30 books. 86% done!



Friday, August 16, 2013

The library's many leading roles...

"A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity," -Germaine Greer

We have a really good public library system here in Pierce County with branch libraries all over the county from which they draw their collection.  Just about any book or musical item you want, you can get if you are willing to wait a few days for it to be delivered to your branch library. In addition, the City of Puyallup has a very nice library, well staffed and stocked.  This library, though not part of the Pierce County system, cooperates with the county and allows dual membership. I am constantly driving to one or the other of the libraries to check out the books that I want to read or listen to. And, of course, I can check out books from my own high school library. Sometimes I actually have to careful not to return books to the wrong library.  I know.  I am spoiled.  If only everyone could have such a rich culture of libraries to draw from.

Today I stumbled upon this story from NPR about libraries in film and music.  It takes 8 minutes to listen to it, but it is worth it as it has sound clips from the various movies, TV shows and songs.  I am still smiling from the experience.  Get the program started on your computer and, since it is audio only, you can listen while you peruse the Internet, play a game, or, I hope, noodle around on my blog and make a few comments here and there.  Have fun.  Happy listening. Click here:  NPR:  Libraries Leading Roles
"When you're growing up," a wise man once said, "there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you." -Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones member
When the recession hit a few years back it was just about the same time as the explosion of the Kindle and other e-readers. Everyone, everywhere was saying this was the end of books and the need for libraries. yet, when I went to my public library the place would be stuffed with people searching the internet, checking out DVDs, attending story-time, filling out tax forms with help, reading books and magazines, perusing the music section, figuring out how to check out e-books from the library, and making copies. The place was a beehive of activity. One day I had to pick up something at the public library for a teacher so I drove over during the school day to pick it up. I was a few minutes early so the library wasn't open yet. I sat in my car in the parking lot to wait. While I sat there between 15 and 20 cars/people did the same thing so by the time the library actually opened there was a small rush of twenty people pushing in the doors. Libraries are definitely not dead or dying.

Libraries are the best bargain anywhere. Anyone who complains about the cost of books needs to head to their library where they are free. My library even accepts suggestions so they will purchase books/DVDs/music if it doesn't have it, just because I want it. Granted I will have to wait a while, but what a deal! Now if your library isn't as responsive as mine, why not get on their advisory board? Help pass bond issues for libraries? Be proactive.  Your efforts will not only help you, but everyone in your community.



Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

My daughter and I finished reading the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, this past week while on vacation.  Like the other books in the series I had forgotten some of the details of the book but not the feeling-tone at the end. It makes me want to sigh with satisfaction.
The last battle is the greatest battle of all. Narnia... where lies breed fear... where loyalty is tested... where all hope seems lost. During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge - not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear in this, the magnificent ending to the Chronicles of Narnia.--Goodreads
Once again we meet our friends, Jill and Eustace, called back to Narnia to help King Tirian as he struggles to right his kingdom from a terrible wrong...someone is impersonating Aslan and the kingdom is falling apart.

In all the volumes of this series religious symbolism is sprinkled throughout, but if one isn't looking for it, it would be possible to miss it.  In this volume, as Narnia comes to a close and our friends are desperate to save it or find the real Aslan, the religious symbolism can't be missed. And it is lovely and comforting---making the whole book, the whole series worth the time to read it. I'm not sure if I can explain it adequately to express how much this book touches me, right to the core of my existence.  Here are a few quotes that might be helpful in making my point:

After the old Narnia is no more, our friends meet Aslan again...
The air grew sweeter. A brightness flashed behind them. All turned. Tirian turned last because he was afraid. There stood his heart's desire, huge and real, the golden Lion, Aslan himself, and already the others were kneeling in a circle around his forepaws and burying their hands and faces in his mane as he stooped his great head to touch them with his tongue. Then he fixed his eyes upon Tirian, and Tirian came near, trembling, and flung himself at the Lion's feet, and the Lion kissed him and said, 'Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia who stood firm at the darkest hour.'
Even folks who didn't know about Aslan were welcome in his new land...
'And then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in...'
The new Narnia is even better than the old...
...yet at the same time they were somehow different---deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if you ever get there, you will know what I mean.
In Aslan's land one feels at home...
'I have come home at last. This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.'
And in the end, a new beginning...
And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and their adventures in Narnia had only been the over and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter one of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on and on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
I hope, in the end that I also hear "well done, faithful servant" and that I am allowed to go further up and further in to a land where the story, the Great Story, is just beginning.

Read the book, it is wonderful.  Read the whole series. You won't regret it!

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


25 / 30 books. 83% done!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

Edward Curtis is the man in the foreground.
You may not know who Edward Curtis was but I bet you would recognize his magnificent photographs of American Indians. This book, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, was scrupulously researched and marvelously written by Timothy Egan, the award winning author of The Worst Hard Time.

Princess Angeline, Chief Sealth's daughter. Photograph by Edward Curtis.
Edward Curtis was Seattle's most famous citizen in the early 1900s. He was a renown as a portrait photographer but became interested in the plight of the American Indian tribes after seeing the daughter of Chief Sealth (Chief Seattle) walking around the streets of Seattle. She was living in poverty outside the city, not being allowed as a Native American to live within the city limits. He paid her a dollar to photograph her and realized that her face told an important story. At that point he decided that he wanted to photograph all the tribes that were still clinging to the old way of life. Thus began his life project, to photograph and publish a 20-volume set of books, called The North American Indian. This project, which he thought would take five years to complete, took thirty years. It wrecked his finances, his marriage, and his health. By the time he died in 1952, Edward Curtis was living in obscurity and poverty, nearly blind. His photographs were almost forgotten. Was his life project for naught?
When Curtis died in 1952, his lifework with Native Americans had all but faded into obscurity. "Rediscovered" in the 1960s and 1970s, Curtis's photographic work is now recognized as one of the most significant records of Native culture ever produced. His photographs have been included in virtually every anthology of historical photographs of Native Americans and are now frequently used to illustrate books and documentaries. -Library of Congress 
Library of Congress collection of photographs by Edward Curtis

In addition to photographs, Curtis and his helpers recorded the native languages and songs.  He recorded the important celebrations of each tribe.  When his work was rediscovered in the 1970s, tribes started using The North American Indian to teach their children their language and to reignite interest in the old ceremonies and rituals.  Pacific Northwest Indians, the Makah tribe "set out to revive whale hunting in 1999 as a bridge to their past, they had trouble finding anyone alive with memory of the practice. They relied on pictures by Curtis..., and the text from Volume XI, as a guide to reconstructing the ritual of the hunt." The Hopi purchased an original edition of Volume XII devoted entirely to their tribe. "The tribe uses it to build and solidify its teachings, traditions, and language." Many similar examples for other tribes were given in the epilogue.

Oasis in the Bad Land. Curtis. 1905.

My husband and I listened to the audiobook of Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher. It was a powerful experience for both of us. Of course both of us were aware of the deplorable treatment of the American Indians in our history. But neither of us were aware of the role that Edward Curtis played in documenting the rich cultures of these tribes. Many times I found myself in tears as I listened to the book. A shoutout to David Drummond the voice actor who read the book to us.  He does a very good job. We did have a print copy of the book with us while we listened which was important because Egan talks about particular photographs as the end of each chapter and the photos are shown. Listening without the print book wouldn't have given us a complete experience.

I recognize that everyone doesn't enjoy reading biographies, or history books but this book is exceptional and I recommend it for older teens on up.


Photo montage on NPR of several of Curtis' photos.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


24 / 30 books. 80% done!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mother/Daughter interview about Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

"The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth..."

My eldest daughter, Rita, enjoys reading retellings of fairy tales. I thought she would enjoy Cinder and it's sequel Scarlet, retellings of the familiar Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood tales, for this reason.  I was right, she is now a big fan of this local author, Marissa Meyer, and her books. Instead of doing a straight review of Scarlet we decided to conduct a mother/daughter interview about the book.

Me: What is it about these books that you like?

Rita: I love the creativity that the author uses to transform stories that everyone knows into something that continually kept me guessing about the next plot point.

Me: I know what you mean. Cinder isn't just a downtrodden girl, she is a cyborg with exceptional mechanical skills and Scarlet is a fiery redhead who can pilot airships and is keenly loyal to her grandmother.

Rita: I know that you and other readers were sad that Scarlet (the book) is not told from Cinder's perspective. After you finished with the book were you satisfied with the way the book was written?

Me: I wouldn't say I was sad. I was surprised that Scarlet, the book, didn't immediately continue the storyline from Cinder. I thought Meyer did a good job telling the stories from two different points of view.  Each of the main characters voices were very different. I enjoyed "meeting" a new character, Scarlet, and her elusive but sexy guide, Wolf. What did you think of this plot twist?

Rita: I was frustrated at first because I really wanted to know what was happening to Cinder but soon came to love Scarlet, as a strong female character. Plus, it doesn't take too long before we find out what has happened to Cinder since we last heard of her (only a few chapters.) I liked how the puzzle pieces started fitting together which ultimately brought the two characters together.

Me: I felt that Scarlet was a bit too hot-headed or feisty. It made her seem a little too unbelievable. Did you have any troubles with any of the characters?

Rita: Scarlet's personality befitted her hair, so I didn't have any troubles with her feisty nature. But I have problems with Cinder's sidekick, Thorne. Even by the end of the book I don't understand his motivation for helping out Cinder and risking his life to fight the wolves and why he stole things in the first place.  I wonder if this is a mystery that will reveal itself in the next book.

Me: I know.  Thorne was very one-dimensional, just the goofy, make-a-joke-or-sexist-comment sidekick.  However since everything else seems so serious it was nice to have a little comic relief.

Rita: The third book in the series, Cress, is loosely based on the Rapunzel story. How do you think that will fit into the storyline?

Me: I have no idea, but I am sure that it will work.  I understand that it is set in Africa and we know that Cinder, Wolf, Thorne, and Scarlet are heading towards Africa right now so I imagine that Rapunzel will meet them there.  What do you think will happen?

Rita: I don't know how Rapunzel will factor into the story, but I imagine it will focus more on the wandering around in the desert part of the story than the locked up in a tower part. And maybe her love, Thorne(?), will go blind for a while.

Me: You are obviously more familiar with the whole fairy tale than me.  I thought the story ended with the rescue from the tower.  Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Rita: I've already recommended this book, and series, to several friends. How will you promote it in your library this coming year?

Me: I would love to have Marissa Meyer come to GKHS for an author visit since she is local.  I think that would generate a lot of interest. I will highlight both books on my SERIES shelf and book-talk them when I get a chance. The books "sell" themselves, however, and are already very popular.

Thanks so much, Rita, for joining me on the conversation about this wonderful book, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Cress is due to be published in February, 2014.  I bet you are as eager for it as I am.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


23 / 30 books. 76% done!


Review: Wesley the Owl: the Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien

Wesley the Owl: the Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien is a nonfiction story about a biologist, Stacey O'Brien, and a barn owl, Wesley, that she raises from birth. just like the title says it is a remarkable story of love and devotion. Amazingly this love and devotion goes both ways from human to bird and from bird to human.

Please watch the short video which shows footage of Wesley when he was still alive with narration from O'Brien.




I learned a lot about owls from this book, especially barn owls.  Here are a few things I didn't know before:
  • Barn owls exclusively eat mice, anything else is not necessary and might actually cause them to starve to death.
  • Barn owls mate for life and both parents are very active in raising the owletts. Males are smaller than the females.
  • Barn owls are in the tytonidae family while other owls are in the strigidae family. 
  • This page has four different calls that barn owls make. Owl calls
  • Barn Owls are remarkably clean animals and have a sweet odor. They do not defecate in their nests, either.

The book was a fast read, or I read it fast because I skipped around and jumped over parts I wasn't particularly interested in such as what biologists wear to work. I wanted more on the owl and less on biologists. This is a book club selection for next month.  It, no doubt, will generate an interesting discussion. I like reading books where I learn something new and since i knew basically nothing about owls, this book was informative and sweet at the same time.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge


22 / 30 books. 73% done!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A-Z Survey


AtoZsurvey
Sponsored by Perpetual Page-Turner

Author you’ve read the most books from:

Barbara Kingsolver (7) and CS Lewis (9). And, of course, Dr. Seuss (24)
OK. Truth be told-Janet Evanovich (14); Sue Grafton (18)

Best Sequel Ever:

Don't know if this is the best sequel EVER, but I really like Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I also thought that each Harry Potter sequel was exceptional.

Currently Reading:

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (Audiobook)

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Coffee with cream

E-reader or Physical Book?

Physical book

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

Karl Shoemaker in Tales of the Madman Underground. Karl is a real hero and the book is set in the 1970s when I was really in high school.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Hidden Gem Book:

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

When I became a teen librarian, nine years ago, at a high school. That is when I started reading YA Lit.

Just Finished:

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Kinds of Books You Won't Read:

I can't read terribly scary stories because they give me nightmares.

Longest Book You've Read:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, I read the abridged version and it was still 1200 pages

Major book hangover because of:

 I don't know know what book hangover means?  Is it a book that gave me a headache because I was up all night reading it, or because it was so bad?

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Four but there are books in lots of other locations, too.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Actually, I listen to the audiobook over and over. Another book that I have read repeatedly is A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. The last time, however, I decided I was done. No more rereads of that book.

Preferred Place To Read:

In a hammock or poolside, but I don't have a pool and the hammock is not set up this year so I have to settle for the couch.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:

 "...even after fifty years it retains its aura of brimstone and taboo...what people remember isn't the book itself, so much as the furor. Ministers in church denounced it as obscene...the library was forced to remove it from the shelves...There's nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy." ---The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
It always cracks me up when people get on their high horses about a book and it makes more people want to read it because of their actions!  Ha!

Reading Regret:

Not reading more classics when I was in high school and college.  I am so behind where I should be.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):

The Mortal Instruments series.  I've only read City of Bones

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

To Kill a Mockingbird; Pride and Prejudice; Peace Like a River

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book didn't win as many awards as it deserved.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (the author of Silver Linings Playbook) but actually I don't have long to wait since it is coming out tomorrow!

Worst Bookish Habit:

Reading too many books at once.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 

Your latest book purchase:

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

What We Saw at Night by Jacqueline Mitchard

If you'd like to participate, please make sure to let Jamie at Perpetual Page-Turner know, and give her credit for creating the survey. She'd like to see your answers, so be sure to link back to her page.